Here's how to overwinter your beehives & have the bees survive winter. We will do into the following steps that I take to get my beehives to survive winter:
Note: I have an updated post on winter prep here, but below is a good read as well.
- Feed bees 2:1 sugar syrup with essential oil mix throughout the fall
- Insulated Inner Covers
- Wrap Hives In Polystyrene
Sugar CakeDry Sugar Winter Feed see this post & videos for the how to
- Hives tilted forward
- Metal mouse guards
- Hives strapped to ground.
I feed the honeybees sugar syrup all fall, i start just after we harvest honey. I have become a big fan of using zipper type food bags, learn more and see 2 videos here.
Winter is coming. Just before the October storm that dumped 20" of snow here, I went out to our two beeyards and got the beehives ready for winter.
The biggest danger to beehives in winter , i think, is condensation. Humidity builds up inside a warm hive, hits the top of the hive, which is cold, and the water condenses into droplets that rain back down onto the bees. Many times this kills the hive.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce condensation in a beehive. Most important is to keep air circulating in the hive, don't seal up the hive tight. You need air moving through the hive to remove the moisture. I believe everyone should use an inner cover with a notch, aka upper entrance, in the warm months. This allows air to flow through the hive .
In winter, I've been using insulated inner covers and sugarcakes with great success.
The insulated inner covers help reduce condensation, and provide space for the sugarcakes, watch the video and see insulated inner cover plans here. Since using the insulated inner covers, I have not had condensation problems.
I used to use sugarcakes to provide emergency food and a great way to absorb excess moisture in the hive. But I now use the Mountain Camp Dry Sugar Feed method, and it works well. Video here.
There is an ongoing disagreement on whether one should keep the sticky board inserted into the screened bottom board or not in winter. I think it depends on how cold it gets in your area. Around us, it gets below zero a few times each winter, and stays in the single digits at times, so I close the screened bottom board.
The second thing, and just as important, i think, is to tilt the hives. Pretty simple, but tilting the hive will allow any water that has condensed on the inside of the inner top cover of the hive to, by gravity, move toward the front of the hive, and hit the front wall. The water drops then drain out the front of the hive, away from the bees.
Tilt your hives forward by placing a piece of 2x4 scrap lumber under the back of the hive as shown in the picture.
I use metal mouse guards on our hives, the holes in the guard allow enough air to move through the hive when used with the insulated inner covers, I think.
New: I have tried various methods to insulate the hives, and this year I have used 2" polystyrene. This isn't the most elegant solution, but it seems to work. I tried various methods of cutting and affixing the insulation, but for this winter, just cutting them to the fit each side of the hive and strapping them together worked well. Its best if you have two people doing this.
Another important thing to do in areas with high winds in winter, is to strap your hives down to the ground to keep them from blowing over. We double strap our hives because of bears, one strap around the hive itself, another strap goes around the beehive and attaches to stakes hammered into the ground.
We used wooden stakes hammered into the ground for the straps, but they work loose with frost heaves and all. Here is a photo of GF viewer Doug's hives, and he used a spiral metal stake, used for dog runs and camping, that wont pull out of the ground. great idea. i've seen these spiral stakes at the home improvement stores.
Read more of our beekeeping posts here and watch beekeeping videos here. Thx!
In trying to keep a hive as GMO free as possible I am wondering how much honey should be kept in reserve for each hive, to feed through the winter.
Look there are plenty of factors to consider it depends on the strength of your hives, how cold its going to be etc.
I tent to push bees down into 2 deeps over winter. I make sure there is 5-6 frames of capped honey in the top deep. At 7-8 pounds per frame (40-50 pounds).
Its better to leave more than less...
I'd rather they eat it all and come out with a strong colony than try and take too much and end up with a dead-out. only my thoughts.
Oh, advice on the slope of the hive - all genius is simple! As for stock feed - I agree with Scott
Like the idea about the spiral stakes. Definitely going to do this. I need to sugar cake them up soon too. And remove an empty super. Less space to heat.
How can I save a bee colony in a 5 gallon metal cream can? Thousands of honey bees made their home on our front porch in a antique metal cream pail. The bottom was rusted with holes and they homesteaded and filled the pail with 40 or 50 pounds of honey. We want to let them live for pollinating next summer. Should we put hay bales around the pail or cardboard or what? the winters winds can get 20 below zero sometimes in South Dakota. Please advise a novice farm boy. Thanks.
Good advice! Here in central PA I've had good luck overwintering by putting an empty super above my notched inner cover. Condensation rises into the empty super. If it accumulates, the water drips down on to the inner cover as opposed to the cluster. It's a simple way to manage in the winter. I also leave my screened bottom boards in for ventilation.
And my advice to the South Dakota farm boy with a colony in the cream pail (better late than never): contact your local bee club and see if you can find someone willing to do a "trap out." This involves making a one-way exit to the cream pail, and putting an almost empty hive near that exit. Make sure that the almost empty hive has a frame of eggs/brood. When foraging bees discover that they can't return to the cream pail, they will likely set up shop in the new hive. Especially if you bait it with some brood.
Question, do your hives have an upper access hole that would allow moisture to escape? I read that this can be helpful but it seems to me that it would also all heat to escape. Now, I'm in North Texas so our winters are mild but I'm wanting to do whatever is best for my bees.
@James, the top access hole is key to allowing some air flow and moisture to escape. Best to ask a local beekeeper association in your area. Thx!
How you papering your bees for over winter.
- organic honey better than sugar or honey mix with chemical.
insulted inner cover with high quality me trail or double insulation.
avoid direct ventilation to the main entrance to keep the bees away from the strong cold winds
mid um hive - 7-9 frames better than small or big hive ,
feed bees herb anti cold and good for immunology system , and help the bees to be active.
use anti Varroa herb to protect your bees from Varroa.
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I HOPE MY TREATMENT SAFE THE BEES FROM VARROA AND VIRUS , OME TREATMENT EFFECTIVE FOR 3- 12 MONTH WE TESTED IN UAE AND JORDAN SINCE 2012.
WHAT IS THE PREFERRED HERBAL TREATMENT FOR VARROA